Green Party, donations, anti-corruption policy…

Here’s a Green Party press release that just arrived in the inbox. It’s headlined “Days of the corrupt politician are numbered – Ban on corporate donations will help clean up politics for good”…

Green Party TD for Dublin North and Justice spokesman Trevor Sargent has welcomed the latest progress in relation to investigations into the allegations that money was paid to politicians in return for land rezoning votes during the 1990s.

… “There is still some way to go yet, but no person who either gave or received a corrupt payment should be let off the hook for their shameless disregard for sustainable planning and development.”

Deputy Sargent concluded: “It is for this very reason that the Green Party in Government is working to bring forward an immediate ban on corporate donations to political parties. This ban is not just in regard to Government parties either. It is common knowledge that both Labour and Fine Gael accept corporate donations to support the funding of their respective parties and their elections.”

Firstly, all the councillors were from Fianna Fáil. Fianna Fáil continue to accept corporate donations. No mention of that in the press release.

Secondly, the alleged payments were not donations. Does Mr Sargent believe the alleged payments would not have been made were a ban on corporate donations in place at the time? Does Mr Sargent really believe the people allegedly involved would have taken heed of the proposed law were it on the books?

Thirdly, Mr Sargent’s party is in Government with Fianna Fáil who only two days ago applied a whip to its members to reject the Lost at Sea report from the Ombudsman. The report raised serious issues about the ‘maladministration’ of FF TD, Frank Fahey, when he was a minister in the department of agriculture. Where was Mr Sargent on this matter?

Back to donations; as I have said time and again; our current system would work well if the disclosure thresholds were simply lowered or removed so that details of all donations were made public, not just the tiny proportion declared currently. A ban on corporate donations will simply see donations come through other, less public – perhaps less legal – means.

As the Council on Corruption in Europe (GRECO) has said time and again for the last eleven years – repeat, eleven years – all political parties should be forced to publish financial accounts. Ireland has been continously criticised for not legislating for that by the Council. Just last January GRECO published a report on Ireland. In an unusual move our own Standards in Public Office Commission explicitly stated the Government should implement the GRECO proposals.

The Government – led by Fianna Fáil, with whom the Greens are now in office, for the whole period – has ignored them consistently. Mr Sargent, when will the GRECO recommendations be acted upon?

By-the-bye; GRECO does not recommend a ban on corporate donations.

Still, if the Greens are going to do it, they should get on with it. They’ve been issuing pressers on this in-the-works legislation since entering office.

FOOTNOTE: On the topic of the Green Party and corruption; yesterday John Gormley announced that the era of bad planning was over. Just like that.

Green Party leader John Gormley said this evening he was confident the era of bad planning had come to an end.

Speaking in Downpatrick at the AGM of the Northern Ireland Greens, Mr Gormley said he had “noted with interest” the announcement yesterday evening that corruption charges were being brought against four former Dublin City councillors.

“I am reminded of the episode where one of those charged, former councillor and senator Don Lydon, put my colleague Trevor Sargent into a headlock in the chamber of Dublin County Council, as Trevor highlighted payments to politicians involving land zoning,” he said.

“Then as now, the Green Party was a solitary voice against bad and reckless planning, while councillors from Fianna Fáil , Fine Gael, Labour and Sinn Féin – at the behest of developers – rezoned as much of our countryside as they possibly could.”

… That comes two weeks after this press release was issued.

Green Party Senator Niall O Brolcháin has lashed out at rezoning councillors on Galway City Council, claiming that they have learned nothing at all from the property crash.

Following a decision to rezone over 20 acres of land in various locations across the City to commercial and industrial use, Senator O Brolcháin said: “Councillors are still rezoning land to feather the nests of individual property developers and speculators – indeed some of the Councillors are developers themselves and have been forced to declare conflicts of interest in the past.

“I would commend the Councillors who have stood firm against this rezoning, which was carried out against the advice of the acting city manager and senior planners. The current mayor went so far as to use his casting vote to rezone one of the most controversial sites on the Tuam road…

Doesn’t seem like the era has ended to me. Still, you’ve got to commend O Brolcháin for publicising it. I suppose you can’t legislate for… err, idiocy, let’s call it this time. But “then as now” is pretty much dead right.

8 thoughts on “Green Party, donations, anti-corruption policy…”

  1. Bring in a proper site value tax to temper rezoning.

    Would there be the same pressure to rezone if the tax clock started ticking on unused zoned land. The notion that the government can control zoning through plans and legislation is a basic assumption of our system that has been shown to be wrong.

    If taxes became due on undeveloped by zoned land zoning would be far less desirable.

  2. you’re forgetting that there are another 4 politicians implicated but 3 are deceased. – former Fine Gael TD Liam Cosgrave Jnr and deceased councillors Jack Larkin and Cyril Gallagher (both FF) and Tom Hand (FG).

    Greens are pulling this holier than thou attitude and trying to implicate Labour in planning corruption.
    Its rather sad, and I agree completely with your point – disclosure would be a much better way to go.

  3. Mark, I welcome your comment in relation to Trevor Sargent and The Greens position on the rejection of the Ombudsman’s Special Rrport on The Lost at Sea Scheme.
    However would you not be better to email Trevor and ask him for his position on it….

  4. It also strikes me that there’s a risk of providing these gents with the perfect defence: prejudicial comment from within the Govt itself. Shades of Mary Harney & Haughey!

    It’s OK, they’re tears of laughter. Honestly . . .

  5. “As the Council on Corruption in Europe (GRECO) has said time and again for the last eleven years – repeat, eleven years – all political parties should be forced to publish financial accounts.”

    I was struck by this reference to GRECO’s recommendation being 11 years old, as the earliest reference I can find to it is in their Third Evaluation Round report on Ireland, which was published in December 2009.

    Was there an earlier recommendation on this point? If so can you provide a link?

  6. There was one in 1999/1998 following a meeting in Madrid if memory serves. Another in 2003 in a more specific document. SIPO have referred to it fairly regularly in annual reports. I’d imagine a search for “Greco” on sipo.gov.ie will yield the results. I’ll update this comment when I get to a desktop/laptop. Currently on a phone. Let me know if you find it in meantime. Should be there…

  7. On further investigation I found this Council of Europe doc from 2003, which contains the recommendation in general terms: Recommendation Rec(2003)4
    of the Committee of Ministers to member states
    on common rules against corruption in the funding of political parties and electoral campaigns
    . I can’t find any further references to Ireland being continuously criticised – any more material you can turn up would be very interesting.

    And sorry about the excessive italics in my comment above.

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